MIAMI ( – Former presidential candidate George McGovern said Thursday that he will board a plane Friday bound for Cuba. McGovern, 88, will be visiting Fidel Castro for the first time in almost 17 years.

McGovern said the trip was to see Castro while the former Cuban is still alive.

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“I’ve lost enough friends with regrets that I didn’t go see them while they were still alive, so I want to see him,” McGovern told the Associated Press.

McGovern ran for the presidency as a Democrat in 1972 against Richard Nixon. He lost in one of the most lopsided elections in U.S. history.

McGovern, who has a home in St. Augustine, said he didn’t know what he and Castro would discuss, but said they would probably talk about the U.S.’ nearly 50-year-old embargo against the Caribbean nation.

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“It’s a stupid policy,” McGovern said. “There’s no reason why we can’t be friends with the Cubans and vice-versa. A lot of them have relatives in the United States and some Americans have relatives in Cuba, so we should have freedom of travel.”

McGovern pointed to the older guard of Cuban exiles in Miami for keeping the embargo in place for decades. He said the exiles made, “sure that every Congressman knows that Castro is a monster and we shouldn’t have anything to do with him.”

McGovern also pointed out to the massive hypocrisy the U.S. is involved with by dealing communist China, but not communist Cuba.

“We seem to think it’s safe to open the door to a billion communists in China, but for some reason, we’re scared to death of the Cubans,” McGovern said.

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